What about the other states? Evidence suggests unwillingness to bend and accommodate, and instead, balancing and seeking for allies. India is a good example, but so too is Japan, which already possesses a strong military, though without force projection capabilities or weapons of mass destruction. Should Japan feel the need, it could rapidly and self-sufficiently create military forces far stronger and more sophisticated than China’s. For the moment Japan is committed to alliance with the US.
…the PLAs near-term potential to project power into Central Asia will strengthen Beijings leadership within the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, and impart impetus to the evolution of this organisation into a more active military bloc, which potentially may give India reason to moderate its more recent strategic tilt toward Washington.
The steps Tokyo and Washington are now taking to co-ordinate military capabilities are very important. As long as Washington does its part, the US–Japanese alliance will be secure, and it is the real foundation of security and stability in Asia. But if the US wobbles, or be seen as unreliable, then Japan would most likely decide that the time has come to solely assume its own defence. China fears Japan more than any other power. Yet by arming itself with such vigour, China ie, paradoxically enough, is pushing a pacifist Japan into doing the same.
Other states in the region are also looking towards greater military self-sufficiency, An arms race has begun, thanks to Beijing, and it has been intensified by the qualitative leaps that foreign technology has permitted. Now we must brace ourselves for appropriate reaction to China’s initiative, for, as Clausewitz stresses, in international security no less than in physics, actions elicit reactions. The problem is that in international relations one cannot predict the reactions as one can in physics.
Impact on the United States
For Washington the PLA’s foreign fueled missile buildup only adds further challenges to the already stressed US military, as it is eroding support for the US-led alliance and military cooperation network in Asia. To be sure, Japan’s reaction has been quite the opposite and it wants to increase security co-operation with Washington. But, should the PLA conquer Taiwan and hold Tokyo’s maritime arteries hostage with superior naval forces, there could also be accommodation at the expense of the American relationship. South Korea, Philippines, Australia, and even Vietnam show signs of wanting to accommodate Beijing, be it regarding Taiwan, or conflicting maritime resource claims, or even security relations with the US.
In addition, the PLA’s near-term potential to project power into Central Asia will strengthen Beijing’s leadership within the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, and impart impetus to the evolution of this organisation into a more active military bloc, which potentially may give India reason to moderate its more recent strategic tilt toward Washington.
Nuclear Missile Threats
PLA espionage, interactions with US companies in commercial space activities during the 1990s, and probably deeper commercial access of Russian technology during the same period, have enabled the PLA to modernise its primary and secondary long range nuclear missile strike capabilities. The PLA’s goal is not to match the numbers of US and Russian nuclear missiles, but to ensure that PLA missiles remain a tool for deterrence and political coercion. New PLA nuclear missiles will place immediate burdens on US missile defences planned for deployment. The extent to which the PLA can surmount US missile defences will decide the degree to which it can use its nuclear missile forces for potential political blackmail against the US, its friends, and allies. Whether from espionage of classified US data, or through open sources, the PLA has been able to build modern small thermonuclear warheads. This achievement by the early 1990’s was essential to the development of new mobile missiles and multiple warhead missiles.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the PLA had some DF-5 ICBMs which could only lob one large and inaccurate warhead at the US. Further, these DF-5s were vulnerable during the time needed to erect and fuel them, possibly enabling the US to attack them. By the middle of this decade, the PLA will have two new ICBMs that are more accurate and more survivable. The first will be the DF-5 Mod 2, which the Pentagon has reported, that it may be the first PLA ICBM to have multiple warheads. As such, it will be far more capable to penetrate US missile defenses that are planned for deployment. It can be expected that the DF-5 Mod 2 will be continually upgraded with more capable penetration aids that enable its warheads to evade US missile interceptors. As of now, the Pentagon reports that there may only be about 20 DF-5 Mod 2s. But if each can launch five warheads, a low estimate for this large missile, it adds up to a potential 100 warheads from DF-5s alone.
Modernisation of the PLA Second Artillery has highlighted the significance of challenges posed by China to the neighbouring countries, though, the current military build-up indicates its orientation towards Taiwan, Senkaku/Diaoyutao, and South China Sea Islands.
By the middle of the decade, if not already, the PLA will begin deploying three new types of solid-fueled ICBMs. It is possible that these missiles were made possible in part by US solid-fuel technology transferred by the US Martin Marietta Company. The 8000 km range DF-31 ICBM may be in the process of development and will be joined by the 12000 km range DF-31A later in this decade. The DF-31 may only carry one warhead but the DF-31A may carry up to three. Both will be road-mobile, meaning they can be hidden in numerous steep valleys and caves, hidden from US satellites. As they are solid-fueled, they need very little time to prepare for launch. This not only complicates defense against these missiles, but also the estimation of their final number. The Pentagon expects overall ICBM numbers to increase to 60 by 2010, meaning as many as 40 will be mobile ICBMs.
This overall number will jump by 16 nuclear missiles for each new Type 094 SSBN built for the PLA Navy. Its new JL-2 SLBM is also derived from the DF-31. Its range has not been disclosed by the Pentagon, other than to say that it is more than 8,000 km. The 094 SSBN, thanks to substantial Russian technology used to make the Type 093 nuclear attack submarine, will be the PLA’s first modern and reliable “second strike” platform. The JL-2’s range may permit the 094 SSBN to loiter in waters near the PRC, or further into the “First Island Chain” in order to reach most of the US. The 094 SSBM also offers other potential options for the PLA, such as being able to undertake patrols in the Southern hemisphere that would enable South Polar SLBM launches. This might be attractive to the PLA, because, at this point, the US has no plans to defend its southern approaches with land-based missile defenses.
Modernisation of the PLA Second Artillery has highlighted the significance of challenges posed by China to the neighbouring countries, though, the current military build-up indicates its orientation towards Taiwan, Senkaku/Diaoyutao, and South China Sea Islands. Possible military action by China in Taiwan Strait include six different scenarios, ie, SRBM pre-emptive strikes, attacks to paralyse electronic and C4I system, air strikes, deployment of airborne forces, conducting submarine blockades, and amphibious landing operations. In addition, China’s propensity to fight and win local wars on borders poses threat to regional stability.
Changes from minimum to limited nuclear deterrence with its impact on enhancing nuclear stockpile; development of miniature versions of nuclear warheads; and development of accurate long-range, solid propellant, and MIRV capabilities; are broadly the modernizing aspects of strategic weapons of China’s Second Artillery. These were highlighted by the Taiwan Strait missile crisis of 1996; Wen ho Lee spy case at the Los Alamos Laboratories in the US; the alleged transfer of W-88 miniaturised nuclear weapons technologies to China; the Loral & Hughes transfers of satellite guidance systems to China (that could be instrumental in enhancing the accuracy of the Chinese missiles); and the US plan to deploy ballistic missile defence system in East Asia.